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Backing for San Joaquin as Church prepares for battle: CEN 2.29.08 p 5 February 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, San Joaquin.

The House of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Papua New Guinea has joined in a statement of support for the Bishop of San Joaquin, giving Bishop John-David Schofield their backing in his battle with the Episcopal Church.

The pledge of support comes amidst a hardening of positions over the breakaway diocese. The Episcopal Church has set aside £250,000 to confront Bishop Schofield in 2008, and will seek to bring him to trial at the March meeting of the House of Bishops, with an eye to deposing him from the ordained ministry.

On Jan 29 the Primate of New Guinea and his bishops endorsed a statement put forward on Jan 3 by Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker and the leaders of Forward in Faith UK and the evangelical Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Philip Jensen that saluted Bishop Schofield on “the courageous decision of the Diocesan Convention of San Joaquin to take leave of The Episcopal Church and to align with the Province of the Southern Cone.”

The 41 bishops stated that they wanted Bishop Schofield “and the world to know that in this decision for the faith once delivered to the saints, we stand with you and beside you.”

Bishop Schofield will be brought to trial by US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on charges that his support for his diocesan synod’s vote to quit the Episcopal Church was evidence that he had “abandoned the Communion” of the Episcopal Church.

The San Joaquin Bishop is not expected to attend the trial, which will be held in camera at the Bishops’ March meeting.

Last week the Presiding Bishop appointed two priests from outside the diocese to serve as her “interim pastoral presence” in San Joaquin. The Rev. Canon Brian Cox and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore toured portions of the diocese from Feb 19-22 meeting with a select group of Episcopalians who had pledged their loyalty to the National Church.

The excursion did not take in all sides in the three way split in San Joaquin, as those who have quit the Episcopal Church for South America as well as those remain part of the Episcopal Church, but oppose the national church’s progressive agenda have not been included in the “listening tour.”

In a statement released on Feb 15, Bishop Schofield urged the two priests not to come, saying they were “entering into the internal affairs of a diocese of another province.”

He said the “Episcopal Church has begun attacking both me and this diocese” and told the Presiding Bishop’s surrogates their actions were “hardly those of men with honorable intentions.”

The breakaway bishop and his diocese are likely to come under further legal pressure in coming months. Last year the national church spent £650,000 in its property fights, and it noted that in the case of San Joaquin, “we will hold clergy leaders accountable to their vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church, and lay leadership accountable to the fiduciary responsibilities of the offices they hold. Up to $500,000 of income from trust funds will be made available in the calendar year 2008 to support the mission work of the Diocese of San Joaquin and similarly situated dioceses,” it said on Feb 14.

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